At the brink, Spanish team secures three-year deal
By Andrew Hood
One of the most successful professional cycling programs of the past two decades avoided disaster Monday when Banesto team officials signed a new three-year sponsorship deal with the government of Spain’s Balearic Islands.
Spanish radio reported Monday afternoon that team manager Jose Miguel Echavarri has formalized a three-year deal with the Balearic Islands regional government. Banesto, the Spanish bank that supported the team through the Miguel Indurain glory years, will remain on as a co-sponsor for at least the first year.
The official name of the team is still not known, but the name “Illes Baleares” has been floated as a possible candidate. The regional government of the Balearic Islands – which include Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza – wants to use the team to promote tourism to the group of islands off the Spanish coast.
The news is a turn-around in fortunes for Banesto, which seemed to be fading to black after Jan Ullrich returned to Telekom and dashed plans to bring the German star to the team.
Under the Reynolds banner, the team enjoyed its first Tour de France win when Pedro Delgado took the French national tour in 1988. Under Banesto sponsorship, the team won five consecutive Tours with Indurain and the 1998 Vuelta a España with Abraham Olano. To promote the bank’s new on-line banking services, the team’s named changed to iBanesto.com two years ago.